Absence of human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I and human foamy virus in thymoma

H. Li, P. J. Loehrer, M. Hisada, J. Henley, D. Whitby, E. A. Engels

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The cause of thymoma, a rare malignancy of thymic epithelial cells, is unknown. Recent studies have reported the detection of DNA from human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) and human foamy virus (HFV) in small numbers of thymoma tumours, suggesting an aetiologic role for these retroviruses. In the present study, we evaluated 21 US thymoma patients and 20 patients with other cancers for evidence of infection with these viruses. We used the polymerase chain reaction to attempt to amplify viral DNA from tumour tissues, using primers from the pol and tax (HTLV-I) and gag and bell (HFV) regions. In these experiments, we did not detect HTLV-I or HFV DNA sequences in any thymoma or control tissues, despite adequate sensitivity of our assays (one HTLV-I copy per 25 000 cells, one HFV copy per 7500 cells). Additionally, none of 14 thymoma patients evaluated serologically for HTLV I/II infection was positive by enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA), while five (36%) had indeterminate Western blot reactivity. In comparison, one of 20 US blood donors was HTLV-I/II ELISA positive, and nine (45%) donors, including the ELISA-positive donor, had indeterminate Western blot reactivity. Western blot patterns varied across individuals and consisted mostly of weak reactivity. In conclusion, we did not find evidence for the presence of HTLV-I or HFV in US thymoma patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2181-2185
Number of pages5
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2004



  • Human foamy virus
  • Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I)
  • Retrovirus
  • Simian foamy virus
  • Thymoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology

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